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The Best Things To Do In the Central Valley

The Best Things To Do In the Central Valley

From historical tours and art museums to river trains and zoos, these top Central Valley activities will leave you overjoyed. Team


4 min read

September 05, 2020

In the Central Valley, you can do it all: Travel back in time, sightsee, shop ('till you drop), and indulge in locally grown produce. Situated just a few hours away from San Francisco, this agricultural region is home to some of the most affordable places to live in California, so if you can't stay away from the memorable Central Valley attractions, it's time to make your (permanent) move now. The historical tours, art museums, and river train tours will leave you overjoyed; it's time you add these best things to do in the Central Valley to your bucket list.

The Top 12 Things To Do In The Central Valley

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1. California Living Museum (CALM Zoo)

Head to the California Living Museum (CALM Zoo) to see cute critters up close.

The California Living Museum (CALM Zoo) is a 14-acre zoo and living museum in Bakersfield. The museum’s mission is to educate, recreate, and conserve native California plants, animals, fossils, and artifacts. Originally built in 1980 as a place to protect and foster injured wildlife, the zoo opened to the public in 1983 to educate the local community on the importance of conservation. While at CALM Zoo, check out badgers, big cats, raccoons, skunks, and raptors.

2. Big Shoe Repair

Are you a fan of oddities? If so, head to the Big Shoe Repair during your visit to Bakersfield. This large, white foot plaster structure is the only shoe-shaped building in the U.S. with laces. Ironically, the building still houses a shoe repair business, which doubles as a great photo-op spot.

3. Forestiere Underground Gardens

Admire the fruit trees and grapevines that grow underground at Forestiere.

Fresno's Forestiere Underground Gardenswhich are over 110 years old and are recognized as a California State Historic Landmark—combine subterranean tunnels, courtyards, and chambers as an escape from the sweltering valley heat. The grotto within these gardens covers about 10 acres of land. 

The founder, Baldassare Forestiere, was a citrus grower originally from Sicily and excavated this land for 40 years. He went as deep as 25 feet underground and grew fruit trees and grapevines; Forestiere even built a home in his underground complex.

4. Dewar’s Candy Shop

Live life on the sweet side, and head to Dewar’s Candy Shop in Bakersfield. Enjoy the sugar rush—whether you're a fan of taffy candies or a hardcore chocolate lover, this place has it all. With assorted chews, chocolates, English toffee, nuts, caramels, and nuggets, this candy shop will leave you in seventh heaven. Just the aromatic scent of chocolate alone will make your mouth water.

5. River Fox Train

If you're looking for family-friendly places to visit in the Central Valley, Sacramento's River Fox Train should be your next stop. Boarding the River Fox Train is a unique experience and a remarkable way to view the Central Valley. Departing from Woodland, the train's 14-mile track runs alongside the Sacramento River and through the valley. Relax aboard the train as you enjoy a BBQ dinner. Plan your ride in time for the River Fox Train's special events such as the Murder Mystery and Great Train Robbery rides. 

6. Castle Air Museum

Found next to Castle Airport, this former United States Air Force command base shut down its operations in 1995, following the end of the Cold War in 1991. At the Castle Air Museum, get a close-up look at restored military aircraft. Some of the notable antique warbirds featured are the B-25 Mitchell medium-range bomber and the speedy SR-71 Blackbird, which used to hover above Vietnam and Libya.

7. Bakersfield Museum Of Art (BMoA)

Get in touch with the visual arts and make your way to the Bakersfield Museum of Art.

The Bakersfield Museum of Art (BMoA) is located in downtown Bakersfield's Central Park. Since its establishment in 1956, the museum has strived to enhance the quality of life through art appreciation and educational opportunities in the visual arts. The museum includes four galleries of permanent collections and two current exhibitions—Black and White and Memoirs of Illusion. The museum primarily focuses on artists’ works from the Central Valley but also showcases artwork created in California.

8. Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park is one of the must-see Central Valley attractions, making it worth the detour off of Highway 99. The park pays tribute to Allen Allensworth—the first African American to reach the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1908, Colonel Allensworth, along with his African American pioneers, founded the only Californian town fully governed and financed by African Americans. Today, in honor of Allensworth’s remarkable achievements, the town has restored the schoolhouse, library, and other historically significant buildings.

9. Kern County Museum

Become an expert on Kern County and visit the Kern County Museum, which is spread across more than 60 historic buildings.

The Kern County Museum showcases Kern County's unique history. Founded in 1941, the museum provides interpretive experiences and a meaningful learning environment for people of all ages. The museum has collected historical pieces from Kern County since 1929; the artifacts are displayed in more than 60 historic buildings situated across 16 beautifully landscaped acres. The museum also has a special children's section featuring exhibits on art and history.

10. Central Park Antique Mall

Antique collectors, this place is for you. The Central Park Antique Mall is the perfect spot to transport yourself to a former epoch in time. Selling cherished antiquated items, the antique mall will give you all the feels of nostalgia. Regardless if you're in need of antiquities or just in the mood to window shop, you'll enjoy your trip back in time.

11. Tower Theatre For The Performing Arts

Stop by the Tower Theatre to enjoy top-notch entertainment in Fresno's Historic Tower District.

The Tower Theatre was originally built as a 20th-Century Fox Moviehouse. The building is now a cultural hub offering top-notch entertainment in Fresno's Historic Tower District; it operates as a performing arts theater and welcomes comedians, musicians, dance troupes, and other performers. While touring the theater, you'll find shops, restaurants, and offices as well. 

12. Hanford Fox Theatre

Initially designed as a movie theater in 1929, Hanford Fox Theatre was open during the transition to television and movies and has held silent films and early talkie. This architecturally and historically significant building now only presents live performances.

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